Precision Farming & Ag
Over the past 20 years, precision agriculture/precision farming technology has changed dramatically. Hardware, software, and communications systems have advanced at light speed, and those systems are making a dramatic impact on the future of farming. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the world of drones.
First, let’s define Precision Farming: PrecisionAg.com defines it as managing crop production inputs (seed, fertilizer, lime, pesticides, etc.) on a site-specific basis to increase profits, reduce waste and maintain environmental quality.
Drones provide farmers with dramatically increased capabilities to include:
- Constant crop monitoring
- 3d mapping of farms
- Plant count
- Crop stress-level monitoring
- Detection of invasive species
- And, much more!
Drones For Farming & Ag
Drones used for Farming and Agriculture are generally no different than other types of drones. The difference comes in the application of the platform and software. Most drones in this sector are equipped with some combination of visual cameras, thermal sensors and/or RGB (red, green, blue) multi-spectral detection. The one notable exception are the drones equipped with spraying capability. We’ll briefly discuss spray drones later on.
One of the most important and commonly used aspects of drones in precision farming is 3d mapping. Most drones will come with a basic level of flight planning software, but a couple of companies have truly specialized in creating mapping software dedicated to precision farming and ag. These programs not only create high definition 3d maps of farms, but they can also employ algorithms for detecting crop stress, counting plants, detecting invasive weed species and more.
In most cases, this software enables autonomous flight of the drone to capture the data. As the drone flies, it will automatically take pictures using the onboard sensors and cameras. Everything else is taken care of by the software in post-processing.
High Precision Crop Spraying
Today, precision crop spraying using drones is primarily used in remote/austere locations, mountainous terrain and ‘small farm’ applications. Due to their small size and limited payload, drones cannot cover large areas as quickly as aircraft (fixed wing or helicopter). However, drones are capable of much a more precise delivery of herbicides and pesticides.
For example, drones can be used for precision mapping of a field and provide detailed information on weed growth. That same information can be used to spot treat specific areas of weed growth versus spraying the entire field. Precision spraying is not only ecologically important, but it provides considerable cost savings and limits personal exposure to the chemicals.
Benefits of Drones in Agriculture
Drones make it possible to survey and inspect large sections of farmland in a minimum amount of time. With a quick flight, drones provide farmers with the ability to 3d map property, report on crop health, monitor livestock and irrigation systems, provide precision spraying and more. Drones have revolutionized agriculture by offering farmers:
- cost savings
- enhanced efficiency
- improved safety and
- more profitability.
The ability to collect and analyze data in real time has tangible outcomes for farmers. Better crop yield, fewer resources expended, and better information and intelligence to make improved management decisions are just a few of the reasons that drones are becoming an integral part of Precision Farming and Agriculture.
The Future of Drones
Global Market Insights forecasts that the agricultural drone market size will exceed $1 billion and 200,000 units shipped by 2024. GMI attributes the growth through 2024 to increasing awareness of the pros and cons of drones in agriculture among farmers.
The company also claims that technological advancements in farming techniques will push demand during the forecast period. Increased automation stemming from a lack of skilled resources and a labor crisis will also bolster agricultural drone demand. Finally, GMI expects government programs in this sector to permit operations of various sizes to help make farming processes more efficient.
Agricultural Drones and Sensors
There are several drones on the market today that are making a huge impact on Precision Farming and Ag.
DJI Matrice 300RTK:
The M300is the ideal drone for “the toughest farming environments.” It features multiple payload options (high-definition cameras, thermal & RGB sensors). Paired with the most powerful sensors on the market, the M300 is capable of delivering transformational technology on day one.
The Altum is an RGB/Thermal sensor payload compatible with the M300. The Altum features a 5 lens system capable of Blue, Green, Red, Red Edge, near-infrared & Thermal. This sensor allows growers the capability of:
- Crop Health Mapping
- Water Management
- Leak Scouting
- Disease Identification
- Plant Classification
- Plant Counting
- Weed Detection
- Terrain Modeling
- And, More!
If you’re interested in learning more about how drones are changing the landscape for precision framing and agriculture, please contact us today. Our training experts are ready to provide consultation, demos and quotes to meet all of your UAS needs.